In Greek mythology, the Muses were goddesses of inspiration and enlightenment who imparted knowledge and insight onto early poets, writers, musicians, artists, sculptors, scientists, and everyone else involved in the creative process.
Muses were the source of knowledge: without them, creators fell short of their potential; with them, masterpieces were born.
The belief in Muses and their imparted wisdom has largely been lost in modern times. But if you ask any creator how they produce their art, they will tell you that, although they put in long hours and hard work, the act of creation is not solely their own.
At some point in the creation process another force seems to take over. The ideas begin to “flow naturally” or to “come out of nowhere.” The creator suddenly feels less like a creator and more like a messenger who conveys otherworldly ideas through his or her creative medium. Today, we call this experience inspiration, or creative genius; the Greeks would have thanked the Muses for making them capable beyond their own abilities.
Whatever you call it, here are five ideas for channeling your Muse, or the creative genius inside you:
1. Explore Your Own Discipline
Successful writers read great literature. Successful artists study the works of the masters. If you’re feeling stuck, look at what successful creators have already done. Don’t just focus on their successes, though: focus on their techniques.
“If you don’t have time to read, you don’t have the time (or the tools) to write. Simple as that.”
— Stephen King, American Author
Nothing will drive a Muse away faster than comparing a polished masterpiece to your masterpiece-in-the-making and thinking, “mine will never be that good.”
Also, don’t overlook the not-so-great creations in your discipline. By looking at completed works that you know aren’t that great, you’ll get inspiration for how to improve your own work and how to avoid some of the same pitfalls.
2. Explore Other Creative Disciplines
If you write, listen to classical music. If you paint, read books. If you’re a musician, sketch nature scenes.
Exploring other creative outlets keeps your mind involved in the creative process, but it also prevents you from over-thinking or burning out on your project. As you listen to music, or write, or free-sketch, let your mind wander. Then pay attention to new ideas or thoughts and record them for future use in your projects.
When you find your mind beginning to focus more on your primary creation than this other creative pursuit, that’s your Muse telling you to get back to work and put this inspiration to use.
3. Form Habits to Make Creative Triggers
When you find that the inspiration is flowing, pay attention to what’s going on around you. Do the ideas come easily when you’re driving down the highway? When you’re listening to the radio? When you’re in the shower? When you’re sitting in your favorite chair? When it’s early morning or late evening?
When you find something that works, use this activity as a way to jumpstart your inspiration. Your Muse will learn that these “triggers” mean it’s time to be creative and you’ll notice the inspiration flowing more easily.
“Creativity is a habit, and the best creativity is the result of good work habits.”
— Twyla Tharp, American Dancer, Choreographer, & Author
Just remember that there can be too much of a good thing. The purpose of these activities is to get inspiration that you can use in your creations. If you never use the inspiration that you receive, but only do the activity because you enjoy it, then the activity is just a distraction and you should either get rid of it or start putting the inspiration to work.
4. Change Up Your Routine to Avoid Staleness
This might seem to contradict the last point, but changing your routine can also bring new inspiration. Trying to bring a new idea into creation while using stale routines can lead to stale results.
If you find that happening, get out. Take your easel to the park, use a notepad in the car, or take your laptop to a café. Something as simple as moving your work to the kitchen table and noticing how the light reflects through the window can spark new ideas.
Even if you change up your routine, you can still use your existing creative triggers to remind your Muse that you’re here to work. If you’re sitting in a café, find a window with a view of people on the street. If you’re working from the car, listen to classical music on the radio. If you’re painting in the park, go feed the ducks when you get stuck.
5. Above All, Keep Creating
Whatever you do, don’t let the act of trying to find your Muse distract you from the act of creation itself. Even the best Muse cannot force you to pick up your hands and create something.
If your Muse has decided to take a vacation, you still have to show up and work.
Sometimes the struggle of creation is enough to spark inspiration. Sometimes it is not. But no matter what the case, if you keep working and stay focused on creating, your Muse will visit you more and more frequently and the creation process will become easier and more natural.